Friday, 28 August 2009

This year drought has affected thousands of hectares of rice paddy through out the country, and eight provinces are hit by drought

A Cambodian farmer, Chhun Samnang, 49, plants rice on the dry earth in the rice paddy at Prey Kla village, Kampong Speu province, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. According to the government's rice agency, the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said this year drought has affected thousands of hectares of rice paddy through out the country, and eight provinces are hit by drought. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian farmer, Chhun Samnang, 49, plants rice on the dry earth in the rice paddy at Prey Kla village, Kampong Speu province some 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. According to the government's rice agency, the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said this year drought has affected thousands of hectares of rice paddy through out the country, and eight provinces are hit by drought. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian farmer, Chhun Samnang, 49, plants rice on the dry earth in the rice paddy at Prey Kla village, Kampong Speu province, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. According to the government's rice agency, the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said this year drought has affected thousands of hectares of rice paddy through out the country, and eight provinces are hit by drought. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

A Cambodian farmer, plows in the rice paddy at Prey Kla village, Kampong Speu province, some 35 kilometers (22 miles) south of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. According to the government's rice agency, the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said this year drought has affected thousands of hectares of rice paddy through out the country, and eight provinces are hit by drought.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Cambodian farmers clean rice seedling in the rice paddy at Prey Sar village of the capital Phnom Penh's outskirts, Cambodia, Friday, Aug. 28, 2009. According to the government's rice agency, the Cambodian Center for Study and Development in Agriculture (CEDAC), said this year drought has affected thousands of hectares of rice paddy through out the country, and eight provinces are hit by drought.(AP Photo/Heng Sinith)

Bank Official: The Global Economic Crisis Does Not Affect Banks in Cambodia – Thursday, 27.8.2009

Posted on 28 August 2009
The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 627

“Phnom Penh: The director of the National Bank of Cambodia said that even though the financial crisis is affecting many countries in the world, Cambodia does not suffer from it seriously.

“In the morning of 26 August 2009, the Club of Cambodian Journalists held a roundtable meeting about banking management and the trust of the public, with the participation of many journalists and representatives of the National Bank of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“Ms. Tal Nay Im, the director general of the National Bank of Cambodia, who represented the governor of the National Bank of Cambodia, Mr. Chea Chanto, to preside over the meeting, said, ‘In this time of a global financial crisis, we must point out the progress of the banking systems in Cambodia within the last two years.’ She went on to say that the banking system in Cambodia operates at present with the National Bank of Cambodia as the central bank of the country, 27 commercial banks, 2 representation offices of foreign banks, 6 expert banks, and 25 micro-finance institutions under the control and monitoring of the National Bank of Cambodia.

“Ms. Tal Nay Im added that during the last two years, he number of commercial banks operating in Cambodia has increased. Most of them are foreign banks that come to invest in the banking sector in Cambodia. The increase in the interest looking for benefits by foreign banks at the Cambodia market is considered, by Cambodian people, as a positive point, because Cambodia has political stability and a market, seen by foreign investors as having potential for strong progress under the legal framework of Cambodia, though there is no neutrality yet, but there is a favorable environment to attract investment in a free trade atmosphere, which does not limit the in-and-out flow of capital or currency exchange operations. She continued to say that also the fact that there is a high level of dollarization in the Cambodian economy helps to ease the control of active and inactive property of a majority of the banks that operates with dollars. Even though Cambodia is a small country in the region, it has potential for development and investment for profit almost in every economic sector which can be considered as having an interesting outlook for foreign investors.

“Ms. Tal Nay Im went on to say that in Cambodia in 2009, the number of people who deposit money at commercial banks is 820,284, corresponding to 6% of the country’s populations, excluding the deposits at the micro-finance system. Also, Cambodia had reserved currency resources at the National Bank of US$100 million in 1998, but now US$2,300 million in 2008.

“The Country Representative of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation of Germany, Ms. Rabea Brauer, said that provided that Cambodia does not suffer from the impact of the financial crisis as seriously as the United States, according to a study conducted previously, the financial crisis has an impact to a smaller extent, especially on women and children, and this impact will continue.

“She added that journalists should focus on topics about the impact of the global financial crisis on women and children.”

Kampuchea Thmey, Vol.8, #2033, 27.8.2009
Newspapers Appearing on the Newsstand:
Thursday, 27 August 2009

The Last Liberal

by Orrin Judd

Let me begin by offering a personal story about Ted Kennedy that is illustrative, but quite possibly apocryphal. At the time of Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination, he was a Senator from New York. The other member of the delegation was the liberal Republican, Jacob Javits. In that time of less politicized judiciary appointments, senators had significant sway with the White House and the party in power made a less concerted effort to pack the courts with ideologically safe choices. At any rate, the two politically similar senators had worked out a deal to the effect that for every two judges RFK got to recommend, Mr. Javits would get one.

As it happened, my grandfather, Orrin G. Judd, had gotten their joint nod, on April 25, 1968, to fill an open seat on the United States District Court, Eastern District of New York, but with RFK out of the way, the Johnson administration started making noises about withdrawing the nomination and naming a Democrat instead. The story has it that Senator Javits went to the Senator from Massachusetts, explained the deal he’d had with the dead brother and asked Ted to intervene with the White House. He did and the appointment was confirmed on June 24, 1968.

While this anecdote naturally inclines me to be a tad more charitable to Ted Kennedy than many conservatives, the takeaway is really what a creature of the institution of the Senate and of Washington he was. There must have been some irony for Mr. Kennedy when Barack Obama became the first senator elected to the presidency since John F. Kennedy, despite his never having passed a significant piece of legislation through the chamber. Ted Kennedy, by contrast, steered some 300 bills into law, a legislative record that is likely unparalleled in the history of the US Congress. The imprint he leaves behind effects every facet of our daily lives, from immigration liberalization to passage of civil rights laws to trucking and airline deregulation to election and campaign finance reform to funding for cancer and AIDS treatment and research to No Child Left Behind and so on and so forth. And his skills as a parliamentary infighter and role as a voice of the party served him well when it came to stopping Executive branch appointments too, as witness the way he single-handedly transformed the Robert Bork nomination to the Supreme Court, turning a seeming done deal into a vote that few Democrats could afford to oppose him on.

Restoring health and hope with construction

Marines precisely cut material to be used during construction of an annex being added to the Pechmony Health Center during construction Aug. 8. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Cordero).
Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Cordero

KAMPONG SPEU PROVINCE, Cambodia (August 28, 2009) -- At the center of a small market town in the Kampong Speu Province, the sounds of drills and hammers were heard among the busy shops as U.S. Marines and sailors along with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces engineers worked throughout August to restore a closed down medical facility.

Restoring the Veal Ang Popel Health Center was part of the Cambodia Interoperability Program Engineer Civic Assistance Project 2009. Not only did they finish construction, but they finished before the expected completion date of Tuesday.

The health center was once a children's clinic and a delivery hospital.

The project was expected to take more than a month to complete, but the U.S. Marines and sailors and the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces engineers completed the project in less than three weeks.

Infrastructure and design improvements included replacing the ceiling, roofing and tiling; adding ramp accessibility and installing electrical power with solar panels.

Many of the improvements were done to reduce the effects of corrosion, aging and termite damage, according to Sgt. Bradley S. Carlton the platoon sergeant of combat engineer platoon, Engineer Operations Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 172, Marine Wing Support Group 17, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing.

The project was part of Cambodia Interoperability Program 09, an effort of U.S. and Cambodian governments to build relationships and develop bonds between the forces.

A ceremony marking the opening of the center was conducted Thursday.

Marines and sailors are also working with Royal Cambodian Armed Forces engineers to restore the Pechmony Health Center, which should be completed by the end of August.

Ask Gill: Is luggage claim a lost cause?

Angkor Wat in Cambodia can be easy to visit under your own steam

Gill Charlton offers advice on a missing suitcase, a flight cancellation and visiting Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

By Gill Charlton
Published: 11:40AM BST 28 Aug 2009

Sally Newman from London writes

We are visiting Thailand for a beach holiday and would like to spend a few days at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. What's the best way of going about it?

We don't like coach tours, but do we need a guide to the temples?

Gill Charlton replies
It's easy to visit Angkor Wat under your own steam. Buy a flight to Siem Reap and choose a hotel near the ruins. I would organise a guide and driver for the first day. Use this time to drive through the core site and on to some of the outlying temple complexes. Then, if you are a fairly confident rider, rent bicycles to explore the Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom complexes. There are quiet lanes for cyclists and the whole experience is far more atmospheric. Try to visit the Angkor Wat at lunchtime, when most visitors return to their hotels for lunch. The best guide is Dawn Rooney's Angkor, published by Odyssey Books but laser-printed in Cambodia, where it should cost only a few dollars from a small boy.

For a sundowner drink, visit the former Foreign Correspondents' Club, a beautiful art deco house that also has bedrooms (

Try to time your visit to include a Saturday night. A Swiss doctor puts on a fund-raising cello concert and talks about his work in Cambodia. It is a thought-provoking experience.

Lost luggage
Alison Lennox, London, writes

My family and I recently travelled to Tunisia with Thomas Cook Airlines, but my suitcase did not arrive. Thomas Cook paid £75 towards essentials I needed on holiday, but said I must claim for the case and its contents through my travel insurance.

I submitted a claim for £1,700 to Standard Life. I sent a list of everything in the Samsonsite suitcase, from my Karen Millen dresses to my daughter's nappies, but I did not have any receipts.

Some of the clothes were made up abroad on previous holidays, others were part of a weekly Tesco shop. The problem is that I paid cash for most of the more expensive items, such as dresses, shoes, hair straighteners and cosmetics because I don't have a credit card and I rarely use my debit card.

Standard Life has said it will only pay for items valued up to £10 unless I provide receipts for purchases or purchase new items to a similar value and then hope it will accept these as reasonable replacements.

I cannot afford to do this. What should I do next?

Gill Charlton replies
Standard Life says it needs proof of purchase of higher-cost items "where possible" as it would be "irresponsible simply to pay this claim without any attempt to gain proof of possession". I asked the Financial Ombudsman's office for its opinion. It says it expects customers to make every effort to provide whatever evidence they can. As well as obtaining signed chits from shops such as Karen Millen for a similar dress or shoes, you should try to provide photographs of yourself wearing these clothes on previous holidays (which I understand you do have).

Unfortunately, the incidence of fraud involved in baggage claims is high and insurers are no longer prepared to take the customer's word for it.

If customers don't have receipts, insurers will want to see credit or debit card statements. In your case, Standard Life has confirmed that it will accept evidence of cost from other sources such as the internet.

It is important to make a real effort to price losses accurately. For example, the retail price of all your Mac make-up, Birkenstock sandals and GHD hair straighteners can be found online. Send the insurer printouts of the current retail cost of these items. You also need to describe items more precisely. "Samsonite suitcase – £200" isn't good enough. You need to list the model and find the exact replacement cost.

If you make a real effort to obtain this level of detail, most of the claim should be paid.

Low-cost winter flights
Olwyn-Anne Cook in Maché, France writes

I live in France and need to travel back to Britain fairly regularly. Do you know when low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet publish their winter schedules?

Gill Charlton replies
There is usually a rolling programme of announcements for winter flights to Europe. The best way to keep in the loop is to sign up with the airline for email alerts to new routes, changes to routes and flight offers. For Ryanair, click on the "Register for Offers" tab on the left-hand side of the home page; for easyJet, see the "e-Offers" logo on the top right of the home page.

US hotel rates
Barrie Redding from Evesham in Glos writes

In January I booked three nights at the Fisherman's Wharf Holiday Inn in San Francisco through eBookers to arrive on September 12. The rate was £441.81 plus a booking fee. The eBookers website displayed a "Best Price" guarantee. I paid in full at the time and knew that the reservation was non-refundable. I have now discovered that eBookers is selling a similar three-night break at the hotel for almost £100 less than I paid. When I asked eBookers for an explanation it just sent me an email saying that "the prices are controlled directly by the hotel or the hotel supplier".

Surely there should be some advantage in booking a room so far ahead on a non-refundable basis?

Gill Charlton replies
Holiday Inn's head office says that its full or "rack" rate for a booking made in January was $219 and that you paid a discounted advance purchase rate of $187 through eBookers. "Along with the rest of the travel industry, our hotel rates fluctuate throughout the year depending on a number of factors," a spokeswoman for Holiday Inn said. If advance bookings are low, cheaper rooms will be advertised around two months ahead of the arrival date. A week ago Holiday Inn told me that its current advance purchase rate was $144 and that, as a gesture of goodwill, it would upgrade your room to club level for your three-night stay. I have checked its rates again and business has obviously improved. At the time of going to press, eBookers is charging £395 for these three nights while Holiday Inn's rate has leapt up to $190 a night (£354 for three nights).

Costly cancellation
David Wood from Knutsford in Cheshire writes

Earlier this year Wizzair added a Saturday flight from Luton to Cluj in Romania, making its service a daily one. In good faith I booked a flight for September 26. Now the service has been cancelled for commercial reasons.

This means I have to fly the day before and my reservation at the Luton Travelodge is non-refundable, so I have had to pay for another room there the previous night. I have also had to pay for an extra night in Cluj. Wizzair says it has no obligation to compensate me. Is it right?

Gill Charlton replies
Wizzair is right. If an airline cancels a flight for commercial reasons outside the 14-day limit for compensation under EU Regulation 261/2004, it does not have to pay for any "consequential" losses such as prepaid accommodation.

As airlines struggle to keep flying through the recession schedules are being hacked back – and at short notice. The only way to guard against losses like yours is to buy flexibility, though it comes
at a cost.

The Luton Travelodge charges £45 a night for a double room that you can cancel up to your arrival day without penalty. This compares with £32 for a non-refundable "saver" room.

Some hotel groups and hotel booking websites offer cancellation insurance for a few pounds more, which is definitely worth taking up.

Cambodian private equity firm Leopard Capital adds two new team members

28 Aug 2009
Source: AltAssets

Leopard Capital, a Cambodian private equity firm, has added two new team members to strengthen its operations as it continues to raise capital for its debut vehicle, Leopard Cambodia Fund.

Dat Duong, CFA, has joined the firm as an associate partner. Duong was formerly a Merrill Lynch investment banker in Hong Kong, where he worked closely with Leopard Capital CIO Scott Lewis, another Merrill alumnus. He replaces Matthew Magenheim who is returning to the US.

Mohamed Aslam has joined Leopard Capital as marketing manager. A native of Sri Lanka, Aslam earlier spent 13 years as a private banker for high net worth clients in Switzerland, and as a stockbroker in Sri Lanka.

The Leopard Cambodia Fund was launched in March 2008 and is targeting sectors in the financial services, agriculture, food and beverage production, building materials, tourism, and property development in the South-East Asian country.

The fund most recently acquired a majority stake in Kingdom Breweries for $2m.

2 Koreas agree on reunions for separated families

A South Korean Lim Jae-shil, 85, raise his hands in joy after being selected as one of 300 candidates who could meet their North Korean relatives in upcoming family reunions, at the headquarters of Korea Red Cross in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Aug, 28, 2009. North and South Korea agreed Friday to hold a new round of reunions next month for families long separated by the Korean War in the latest sign of easing tensions on the divided peninsula. Among the 300 candidates, 100 will be able to meet their relatives in North Korea.(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

By JAE-SOON CHANG, Associated Press Writer

SEOUL, South Korea – North and South Korea agreed Friday to hold a new round of reunions for families long separated by the Korean War — the first in nearly two years — in the latest sign of easing tensions on the divided peninsula.

Red Cross officials from the two sides wrapped up three days of talks at the North's scenic Diamond Mountain resort with an accord to hold six days of temporary reunions involving 200 families from Sept. 26, according to a joint statement.

Millions of families were separated by the Korean War, which ended in 1953 with a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. No mail, telephone or e-mail exchanges exist between ordinary citizens across the Korean border.

This week's rare talks and the resulting agreement were the latest signs of improving relations between the rival nations. The agreement said the North and South will continue to discuss separated families and other humanitarian issues.

Pyongyang has reached out in recent weeks to Seoul and Washington following a series of provocations, including nuclear and missile tests, and international sanctions to punish the communist regime for the defiant moves banned under U.N. resolutions.

Earlier this month, the North freed two American journalists and a South Korean worker after more than four months of detention and pledged to restart some joint projects, including the meetings of separated families that have been stalled since the inauguration of a conservative government in Seoul 18 months ago.

The North also sent a delegation to Seoul to mourn the death of former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung.

South Korean media reported earlier this week that Pyongyang invited Washington's two top envoys on North Korea to visit in what would be their first nuclear talks since President Barack Obama took office.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters Thursday that the U.S. has not received a formal invitation from the North. He also said special envoy Stephen Bosworth plans to travel to Asia soon, but won't go to North Korea.

Four North Korean officials visited the U.S. last week to meet American relief organizations and discuss the resumption of food aid to the impoverished nation, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported Friday. But their trip did not include meetings with U.S. government officials, it said, citing unidentified sources in Washington.

Despite the latest conciliatory gestures, the North was still holding four South Korean fishermen whose boat was seized last month after it strayed into northern waters.

After returning to the South, Seoul's chief delegate Kim Young-chol said his North Korean counterpart told him during the talks there will be a "good result" regarding the fishermen, Yonhap reported.

Following their first-ever summit in 2000, the two Koreas regularly held family reunions until late 2007. Then, ties frayed badly after conservative South Korean President Lee Myung-bak took office last year with hard-line policies such as linking aid to Pyongyang's disarmament.

That angered the North, prompting it to suspend reconciliation talks and major joint projects.

More than 16,000 Koreans have been united in temporary face-to-face reunions so far, while some 3,740 others saw their long-lost relatives in video reunions.


Associated Press writers Kwang-tae Kim and Wanjin Park contributed to this report.

Duch’s trial: black day for victims’ participation

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 27/08/2009: The hands of François Roux, Alain Werner, Ty Srinna, Nil Nonn, Jean-Marc Lavergne, Hong Kim Suon, Vincent de Wilde and Kar Savuth during the debate on the admission of civil parties on Day 66 in Duch’s trial at the ECCC 
© John Vink/ Magnum


By Stéphanie Gée

The role of civil parties is one of the main issues at stake in Duch’s trial, which enshrines their first participation in a jurisdiction with international support established to judge crimes against humanity. However, this characteristic of the Khmer Rouge Tribunal – often presented as an important progress – was severely curbed on Thursday August 27th, following a debate abruptly opened by the Trial Chamber and which it quickly ruled on by taking a brutal decision that partially closes the victims’ participation to the trial. The Chamber’s move occurred ten days before the plenary session – when judges revise and amend, if necessary, the directions and Internal Rules – and may hint at the possible adoption then of potentially critical changes regarding the place of victims in the next trials before the ECCC. Often criticised for failing to measure up to their mission and frequently overstepping their role, the civil party lawyers appeared to try and make up for a failing prosecution office. For its part, the Chamber rarely sought to channel these abuses or drifts and did not use its full authority to ensure a strict direction of the hearings. Thursday, while there was likely only a few days of hearings left, the Chamber allowed itself to invent a new rule of the game. On the substance, this turning point stirred consternation, not only among civil parties, but also the prosecution and the defence, whilst among the judges, judge Lavergne registered a dissenting opinion for the first time.

A new debate
As the hearing opened, the president announced that, after the review of the last civil parties contested by the defence, there would be a debate to determine whether civil party lawyers had the right to ask questions to the accused and witnesses summoned to testify on the last theme addressed in this trial, Duch’s personality. That this question was asked already raised a few eyebrows in the courtroom.

Civil party applications that are and will remain empty
Regarding civil parties whose applications were challenged by the defence, Nil Nonn declared they would have to present the Chamber with additional elements of evidence “to demonstrate a relevant link between the victims, the civil parties and case file no. 1” before September 3rd at 4.30pm at the latest.

The last cases of civil party applications deemed unfounded by the defence were reviewed. When it came to four clients belonging to civil party group 1, whose application files were simply empty, their co-lawyer Alain Werner explained: there was no evidence for these cases and there would not be any. “If the Chamber considers, […] in light of the information provided by the civil party in their application file, that it is consistent and sufficiently detailed, our legal position is that, in itself, it should constitute the necessary and sufficient evidence […]. Because nothing in the Internal Rules or in the practice direction on victims’ participation automatically imposes that a civil party must provide material evidence, written evidence, in support to their civil party application.”

The merit of the statement’s intrinsic consistency
Alain Werner then argued that in the relevant international jurisprudence, though it was limited, there was “a very clear trend appearing towards accepting that victims provide indirect evidence in support to their application, if the victim can prove he or she was prevented by objective obstacles from providing direct evidence corroborating his or her claims.” He referred to the International Criminal Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber, which, he said, decided it would examine files “on a case-by-case basis, based on the merit of the intrinsic consistency of the victim’s statement and any other information available.”

“No impostors on the civil party bench”
In addition, the Swiss lawyer insisted, the accused would suffer no prejudice since his four clients “bring no incriminating element against him” and “the accused will not be forced by this court to pay monetary and individual compensation.” He shot at François Roux, Duch’s co-lawyer: “We forcefully reject […] the scarecrow argument which consists in saying ‘Careful. If you decide indeed there is no need for evidence, there will be streams of civil party applications in the future that will flood and drown your jurisdictions.’ The accused enjoys the presumption of innocence […] but our civil parties must benefit from a presumption of good faith. If this trial has demonstrated one thing, in our view, it is that there was no impostor, no freeloader, on the civil party bench.”

He then quoted an excerpt from Nic Dunlop’s book, The Lost Executioner, which illustrated the fact that part of the S-21 archives were destroyed forever: in the 1980s, a man reportedly bought fried bananas wrapped in a paper that was no other than a prisoner’s confession extracted at S-21.

“Each must stay where they belong”
In reaction, François Roux again drew attention “to what can and must be the role of civil parties.” “That civil parties who cannot, for legal reasons, be represented individually at this hearing be reassured. They will be represented morally by the office of the co-Prosecutors.” He called each and everyone to “stay where they belong.” “What do we expect from civil parties? That they tell us two things, once they are authorised to intervene by the law […]: this is my personal suffering and this is the memory of the person for whom I am suffering […]. That is all. The problem is that since the start, civil parties have wanted to overstep that role.”

Works and the judicial proceedings
Reviewing Alain Werner’s arguments, Duch’s co-lawyer noted “confusions.” For instance, at the International Criminal Court, “the victims are not civil parties” like here. François Roux also returned to the use by the civil party lawyer of a book, like when, earlier in the trial, the prosecution office “thought they had to use as evidence Rithy Panh’s exceptional movie.” “Those are works. […] Yet, I think the people who wrote these books or made these movies never imagined they would be used in a judicial proceeding. We are in a judicial proceeding. There was an investigation. There are legal rules…”

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 27/08/2009: Civil party applicants in case file no. 2 on Day 66 in Duch’s trial at the ECCC 
© John Vink/ Magnum

First blow to the civil party camp
Then, Hong Kim Suon made a much entangled request for one of his civil parties, who took the stand to testify, to be allowed to present a new written statement. He explained she had not dared to say before the Chamber she had been raped by one of the guards at S-21, who was also heard by the Chamber. His request came out of the blue and took everyone aback. The awkwardness of his request ostensibly unnerved the president. “I don’t understand anything at all in what you’re saying and my colleagues seem to share my feeling. We have no idea what you’re talking about. […] If these are new facts, we cannot hear them now.” This latest illustration of the incompetence on the bench of civil party lawyers was grist to the mill of the judges, who were about to deal a first blow to that side of the courtroom.

Indeed, Nil Nonn then announced that in response to a request of the lawyers for civil party groups 1 and 2, the Chamber had decided that civil party lawyers would not be allowed to make observations on issues relating to the sentencing of the accused.

Civil parties cannot be “third-rate parties”
Finally, the court entered the debate that appeared like a rabbit pulled out of a hat: should civil parties be authorised to ask questions to the accused, witnesses and experts who will testify on the personality of the accused?

International co-Prosecutor Vincent de Wilde presented his seemingly implacable arguments. “We believe that the right of civil parties to participate to the proceedings and the questioning of witnesses before this Chamber must be guaranteed and protected. The victims who joined as civil parties are, according to Rules 23.1 and 23.6, parties to the criminal proceedings. That is the general principle. Then, one thing or the other: either one is party to the proceedings and all the consequences must be drawn, or one is not. The internal rules make no distinction that would justify that civil parties be third-rate parties or half-parties. If there are restrictions – for instance regarding the right to appeal –, they are expressly stipulated in the internal rules and it cannot be inferred that civil parties cannot ask questions to some witnesses.” He insisted nothing would justify that a “limitation be introduced now.”

Civil parties’ voice and perspective are “essential”
He did not stop there. “Before this Chamber, because it respects the adversarial principle, all parties were able to make their arguments in law and in facts. All parties were allowed to ask questions to all the experts, all the witnesses who succeeded at the stand [on all the themes addressed], and all were also invited to ask questions to the civil parties […]. Therefore, in the name of the same logic and the adversarial principle, we believe that all the parties, without discrimination or distinction, should be authorised to ask their questions to the accused and character witnesses. It is both useful and necessary to discover the truth and this does not infringe on the rights of the defence or the Chamber’s discretion. It is not justified that civil parties be suddenly reduced to silence because their voice and perspective – which are distinct from the prosecution’s, contrary to what François Roux said – are important. Essential even.”

Vincent de Wilde thus concluded: “As character witnesses do not differ in themselves from other witnesses, civil parties should be authorised to play fully their role as party before this Chamber.” He left an open door: should the Chamber authorise civil parties to participate actively to this part of the proceedings, it “did not prevent [the Chamber] in any way from adjusting this participation […], for instance regarding the speaking time” they will be allocated. Once again, he invited the Chamber not to question the very principle of civil parties’ participation to the trial, a “principle you have applied since the beginning in this file no. 1. We are not talking here about case file no. 2.”

Civil party lawyers taken by surprise
For their part, civil party lawyers made no secret of the surprise created by the last-minute announcement of such a debate. However, they struggled to defend their prerogatives. Only Alain Werner made the case that, until then, “the criteria for questions were that they avoid being repetitive and be relevant.” “Those are the only criteria you have adopted for the last five months.” He added that “since the start of the substantial hearings, nearly all the witnesses and experts spoke in one way or another […] about the character of the accused and nearly all the civil party lawyers have asked questions to experts and witnesses about the character of the accused for five months.”

Kambol (Phnom Penh, Cambodia). 27/08/2009: The ECCC buildings are located 20km away from the city 
© John Vink/ Magnum

The principle of an “individualised sentence”
François Roux returned to the main theme. “The Chamber has decided that civil parties should not intervene on the sentence. They should therefore not question the witnesses who will talk indirectly about the sentence, since it is clear that when one discusses the personality, one necessarily discusses the sentence. When you analyse the character of the accused, it is because you seek to start from that character to determine an individualised sentence.” He invoked the principle of an “individualised sentence.” “This means that, regarding the same facts, two accused may receive different sentences because their personalities will be different.” He asked the question: “What does the personality of the accused have anything to do with the civil parties’ request for reparation since the civil parties’ role is to express their suffering and demand reparation?”

The French lawyer then called out to one of his civil party colleagues: “You mistook yourself for prosecutors! I was going to ask you: do you not trust the work of the co-Prosecutors’ office? Are you not satisfied with their work? Why are you seeking to replace them, to overwhelm them?” He lectured them, quoting a popular saying: “Ladies and gentlemen, civil party colleagues, you sowed the wind and you are now reaping the whirlwind. And you are surprised that the Chamber wonders whether you should continue behaving like prosecutors!”

“Not confusing justice with therapy”
François Roux then recalled the debate going on in France today regarding the place of victims in a criminal trial. He cited a beautiful quotation from French lawyer and former Minister of Justice Robert Badinter, taken from an article published in the newspaper Le Monde and entitled “Not confusing justice and therapy,” after introducing the excerpt with a “This is the heart of our topic!”: “It must be recalled that the mission of criminal justice is not to be a therapy for the victims’ suffering. It has a function of repression, deterrence and expression because it carries society’s values. But it cannot have a therapeutic aim. In the name of the suffering of the victims, who appeal to all the solidarity of the whole society, we must not alter the criminal justice’s difficult balance which relies on the fair trial principles enshrined in the European Convention of Human Rights. Yet, we are seeing a kind of abuse. Claiming to be on the victims’ side always yields political benefit. Who would be against it? We are in a society of emotion that wants to be compassionate. Nothing mobilises emotion more than crime and the victims’ suffering, which is multiplied by media frenzy and the power of television. This feeds the impulse for vengeance which is at the heart of human reaction in the face of a horrible crime. But justice cannot be confused with vengeance or compassion for victims. That is what makes its exercise so difficult.”

Showing pragmatism
The lawyer suggested the Chamber to be “pragmatic.” “Indeed, I believe it would be grave if the Chamber took a principled decision saying that civil parties have no right to interrogate all the witnesses […]. But I also think that the Chamber should take into account the special case that Duch’s trial is,” as the accused was pleading guilty, he specified. “In order not to completely deprive civil parties of burning questions they would like to ask, the Chamber could decide that in a specific case, civil parties can ask the office of the co-Prosecutors […] to ask these questions themselves.” He added he was favourable to civil parties being allowed to ask questions to experts, but “on the condition that they be reminded the questions they will ask can only be related to their suffering and reparation.”

A purely formal debate?
After deliberating for nearly an hour, the Chamber returned: it decided – by majority vote, as judge Lavergne dissented for the second time – not to authorise civil parties to ask questions to the accused and character witnesses. No adjustments were offered despite the options for flexibility suggested by the defence and the prosecution. Judges thereby gave the unpleasant and bitter impression they had made their decision in advance and only organised this impromptu debate with the sole aim to formalise it. A purely formal debate on a substantial issue.

Duch then started being questioned on his biography and personality. But no one seemed to listen. As if, after receiving a blow, the only refuge could be deafness.


Closing arguments and pleas to start on… November 23rd!
The Trial Chamber announced Thursday August 27th that the hearing of the closing arguments of the co-Prosecutors’ office and the pleas of the defence and civil party lawyers would not start before November 23rd. To present their final written conclusions, each of the three parties will have a maximum of 160 pages and the documents must be submitted on November 11th at the latest.

Also, each civil party group has to present written conclusions by September 18th to specify “the form(s) of moral and collective reparation they wish the court to order the accused if he is found guilty.”

The power of free speech

August 28, 2009
Raymund Johansen sounds off in the Phnom Penh Post about the recent silencing of government critics, specifically, the case of Kem Sopheak.

Of course, the problem with preventing free speech, no matter how politically objectionable it may be to those with the power to prevent it, is that by doing so the ideas expressed are inadvertently but inevitably given a level of credibility and reasonableness they may not otherwise have garnered. After all, it is reasonable to assume that if powerful persons are afraid of the mere expression of an idea, then that idea must have a grain of truth. The assumption may be incorrect, but it will nevertheless be made.

On the other hand, the great benefit of a society where ideas can be freely expressed without fear of retaliation from the powers that be is that they may then be subjected to the objective scrutiny of the average reasonable citizen and countered with opposing reasonable arguments. Thus, truly ridiculous notions and accusations will be exposed for what they are in the arena of open, public discourse, rather than being repeated in whispers year after year, their merit never tested.

It would behoove the government to learn this lesson sooner rather than later.

Posted by DAS

The Phnom Penh Post in KHMER language

At jetty's edge

Photo by: Mark Roy

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Mark Roy

A​ fishing boat lies moored at the end of a jetty on Koh Khteah island in Sihanoukville. See page 16 in this week's 7Days for more details on this tropical island getaway.

'Ecstasy oil' seized in Pursat

Photo by: Photo Supplied
A dump truck and barrels of oil used to manufacture Ecstasy sit idle in Pursat province after being confiscated by Forestry Administration officials last week.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
James O'Toole and Tha Piseth

Rangers discover 2,600 litres hidden in the bottom of a truck, as conservationists decry the devastating effects of harvesting the mreah prov trees from the forests.

FORESTRY Administration officials seized 2,600 litres of sassafras oil used to manufacture the drug MDMA, or "Ecstasy", last week in a major drug bust in Pursat province, government officials and conservationists said Thursday.

The oil, which is extracted from the wood of trees known in Khmer as mreah prov, was discovered on August 19 in barrels below the false bottom of a dump truck driven by Lim Pim, a 27-year-old Vietnamese man who was arrested at the scene, according to the environmental group Conservation International (CI). He was driving to Pursat town from the Phnom Samkos Wildlife Sanctuary in Veal Veng district.

Mok Dara, director of the Interior Ministry's Anti-Drug Department, said the oil has been regulated by drug control laws since 2006 due to its role in drug or illicit substance production, and that authorities around the country have become increasingly focused on it.

"There are five cases already that have happened in Cambodia in 2009, in Battambang, Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces," he said.

Last week's arrest in Pursat was made by rangers from the Forestry Administration's Central Cardamom Protected Forest enforcement team, a targeted project funded in part by CI.

CI became interested in this issue in the early 2000s, after noting the severe toll that the harvesting of the oil had taken on the Kingdom's forests, said David Emmett, the organisation's regional director.

Oil extracted from trees in Cambodia is typically transported across the border to Vietnam for refinement.

To generate enough oil for cross-border trafficking, Emmett said, producers cut down trees at a rapid rate, a process devastating to local ecosystems.

"It's like this cancerous growth in the forest," Emmett said. Cambodian production is centred in the Cardamom mountains of the southwest, and in the forests of the northeast.

Rural producers can expect to make around US$10 per kilogram of oil, Emmett said, "but when it gets out to Phnom Penh and Hanoi, it becomes massively more valuable".

Seng Bora, also of CI, estimated that the oil seized in last week's bust would have netted producers perhaps US$50,000, though by the time it reached the border, it could have been worth up to $270,000.

In June, rangers seized 5.2 tonnes of the oil in a single bust - the largest ever of sassafras oil in Cambodia, officials said at the time.

Dam plan threatens fisheries

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Robbie Corey-Boulet and Sam Rith

Food security could be at risk from Laos to the Mekong delta.

HUNDREDS of thousands of Cambodians could go hungry if plans for a 30-metre hydroeletric dam on the Mekong River are given the go-ahead, a coalition of international scientists has warned in an open letter.

The Don Sahong Hydropower Project, due to be built less than a kilometre from the Cambodia-Laos border, could devastate the population of domestic migratory fish and compromise the food security of people throughout the region, the experts said in the letter distributed Thursday.

Located in Laos's Champasak province, the project would affect parts of Cambodia already grappling with poor nutrition, says the team of scientists, fisheries specialists, nutritionists and development workers from around the world. The letter is a direct response to a report examining the potential hazards of the project that was released last week.

"If the dam goes forward, the corresponding drop in nutritional status for Lao and Cambodian citizens could result in setbacks in government and international donor efforts to alleviate poverty and meet various health-related United Nations Millennium Development Goals," the letter reads.

Tom Evans, deputy director of the Wildlife Conservation Society Cambodia Programme, said on Thursday that he and the other signatories hoped to raise awareness of the dam's potential hazards among as many "decision makers" as possible, but he did not know whether it would be sent to specific officials.

The effects of the dam in Cambodia could be particularly severe, he said.

"A lot of the fish that are caught in Cambodia move to other parts of the Mekong Basin to breed or feed," he said.

"The evidence suggests that when those migrations are interrupted, the populations decline, which means less food for people along the riverbanks, and that may include fisheries as far away as the Tonle Sap Lake and the Mekong Delta, depending on the species."

The report, produced by Ian Baird and titled "The Don Sahong Dam: Potential Impacts on Regional Fish Migrations, Livelihoods and Human Health", highlights how the dam might affect northeastern Cambodia, notably Stung Treng province. Citing provincial government statistics indicating that 44.8 percent of children under 5 are underweight, the report states: "As people are already not consuming enough animal protein, a further reduction of fish without replacement protein could lead to serious increases in nutritional problems."

Mitigating factors
The report acknowledges that the Malaysia-based Mega First Corporation Berhad - the company behind the dam - has put forth proposals for mitigating the effects of the project, but argues that "nobody really knows enough about the migratory requirements of the various species involved to be able to say with any certainty what the result of various mitigating measures might be".

The report also states that some proposals, notably the use of fish ladders, have poor track records.

Evans echoed the report's scepticism: "It seems unlikely to me that we understand those species or the design that's needed sufficiently to make that work," he said. "Fish passes often fail, even in well-known, well-studied parts of the world. In Laos it would be even harder."

Mega First could not be reached for comment.

A draft environmental impact statement has been prepared, but Pich Dun, secretary general of the Cambodian National Mekong Committee, said he had not yet received it. He said Cambodian officials were eager to research the potential effects of the dam. "We are concerned about losing fish, and we would like Laos to send us the information officially so we can study the impacts," he said.

Nao Thuok, director of the Fisheries Administration, said Thursday that he had not seen the Baird report, though he said the government was concerned about any dam project slated for the Mekong River.

Duelling boat tours reach deal

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
May Titthara

PROVINCIAL officials in Siem Reap's Chong Kneas commune on Thursday struck an agreement with two Tonle Sap river tour companies that they hope will resolve a bitter rivalry that posed a threat to the commune's tourism sector.

The two companies, one operated by the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) with offices in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, and the community-based Walk In boat tour company in Chong Kneas commune, have for the past two days clashed over access to tourists visiting Siem Reap, with Walk In claiming CATA held an unfair advantage.

Authorities, led by Siem Reap Deputy Governor Bunn Tharith, agreed with both companies on Thursday to a compromise for operators to conduct tours on a rotating daily schedule.

Heng Tim, a Walk In tour boat operator, praised the decision as a just compromise. "All of us agree that this is a fair resolution," he said.

But not everyone at Walk In was satisfied. Kim Sophany, tourism controller at the Sou Ching port in Chong Kneas, said the agreement was unfair.

"The Cambodian Association of Travel Agents has no business organising boat tours. They have become involved in order to protect the interests of rich and powerful people," he said.

Bunn Tharith said that, as far as he was concerned, the dispute was resolved.

Girls curfew proposed

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Chhay Channyda

PHNOM Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said this week that he would request that the Ministry of Interior prohibit girls under 16 years of age from going out alone at night.

The governor said young girls should not be allowed to go out in the evening because they are likely to go to clubs, karaoke bars and other entertainment spots that should be reserved for adults.

"I will request that the Ministry of Interior consider issuing a directive banning children under 16, especially girls, from going out alone after 9pm," he said. "If they want to go out after 9pm, they must be accompanied by their parents. We want to promote the morals of girls in our society."

Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said he agreed, but was not sure the plan would be feasible.

"This is a good idea, but I'm afraid it violates the human right to mobility," he said.

Duch testifies about motives

Photo by: AFP
Children visit Toul Sleng prison, where former prison chief Duch allegedly committed the crimes for which he is currently being tried.


The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Cheang Sokha

Ex-S-21 commander cites a broken heart, suffering under the Lon Nol regime and faith that 'joining the revolution could help the people and save the nation'.

Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, alias Duch, said Thursday that factors ranging from a broken heart to disenchantment with the Lon Nol regime influenced his decision to join the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK).

Under questioning from the Trial Chamber at Cambodia's war crimes court, Duch also explained the origins of his nom de guerre. "I wanted a name in Khmer, not a kind of Chinese one," Duch said.

He also chose the revolutionary name because it was one used by a good student in a book he studied when he was young. "So Duch is a good one and has Khmer character. That's why I used Duch," said the former maths teacher.

In the period before he decided to join the CPK, he recalled, he tried to persuade a girl he was in love with to become a maths teacher like him.

Her decision not to "disappointed" him greatly, he said. He also said he had grown angry with the government of Lon Nol, which he said had arrested many of his friends.

This emotional turmoil aside, his main reason for joining the party was his faith in CPK teachings and policies, he said. "At that time, I thought that joining the revolution could help the people and save the nation," he said.

Thursday marked the beginning of a new phase of the trial in which witnesses and the accused himself will discuss Duch's character.

A large part of Thursday's proceedings was consumed by a debate over whether civil party lawyers would be able to put questions to witnesses during the new phase, which will resume Monday.

Civil party lawyer Ty Srinna argued that the character of the accused was central to the established facts of the case and that civil parties had every right to ask questions about it.

Kar Savuth, Duch's Cambodian co-lawyer, said civil party lawyers would bring little to the proceedings.

"We can see that there are two prosecutors representing the victims, and they have the obligation to ask questions about the character of the accused in order to meet the burden of proof," he said.

The Trial Chamber ultimately ruled that civil party lawyers would not be able to ask questions. Judge Jean-Marc Lavergne dissented from that decision.


Thais lend $41.2m for Nat'l Rd 68

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Sam Rith

CAMBODIA on Thursday signed a loan agreement with a Thailand-based development group worth 1.4 billion baht (US$41.2 million) to fund a new National Road 68, said Kem Borey, general director of public works at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

The agreement was signed by Vong Sey Vissoth, deputy director general of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and Acksiri Buranasiri, president of the Neighbouring Countries Economic Development Cooperation Agency, which brokered the loan between Cambodia and the Thai government.

Funding for the road, which is to run from O'Smach district in Oddar Meanchey province to Kralanh district in Siem Reap province, was first proposed in 2005-06 and approved by the Thai government last month.

Acquittal expected for Chea Ratha: attorney

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Meas Sokchea

A LAWYER representing former deputy chief of staff of the National Military Police Chea Ratha, who is suspected of involvement in an acid attack, said Thursday he expects his client will be exonerated by a Phnom Penh court in a verdict scheduled to be delivered on Monday.

Keo Ya said Phnom Penh Municipal Court should acquit Chea Ratha of charges stemming from the attack last year.

"I hope my client will be released on [Monday] because the court does not have enough proof against her," Keo Ya said.

"The prosecution has filed a complaint against her that only suspects her of involvement [in the incident]," he said, adding that Chea Ratha would likely return to Cambodia if the court ruled in her favour.

Keo Ya would not provide any information about Chea Ratha's current whereabouts.

Presiding Judge Din Sivuthy could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

Chea Ratha is being tried in connection with an incident from May 2008 in which a Phnom Penh woman, Ya Soknim, was severely disfigured in an acid attack. Ya Soknim is the aunt of prominent beauty pageant contestant In Soklyda, who had a love affair with Chea Ratha.

Chea Ratha has admitted the love affair but denies any involvement in the acid attack.

Anti-gangster strategy

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Chrann Chamroeun and Chhay Channyda

Top police officials met Thursday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court to discuss a new strategy for combating youth-related crime following a directive from Prime Minister Hun Sen in June to crack down on gangsters. "During a three-hour discussion, we outlined the goals of cracking down on crime in a smooth way, a legal way and an efficient way, in order to guarantee security, safety and civil peace in Phnom Penh," said Chev Keng, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

The strategy is to be followed by local and national police across the Kingdom, Chev Keng said, in order to prevent youths from terrorising local communities and to educate them.

Vehicle taxes to be rolled back after protests erupt around the country

Photo by: Thun Sophea
Motorists demonstrate against motorcycle tax enforcement in Poipet on Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
May Titthara

Demonstrators, mostly cash-strapped motorbike owners, say registration fees are too high, forcing many to flout the law by operating unregistered vehicles.

CONTROVERSIAL vehicle taxes are to be reduced throughout Cambodia following a series of protests by thousands of disgruntled motorcyclists, a top customs official said Thursday.

Widespread public anger was sparked earlier this month after Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered provincial police across the Kingdom to collect the taxes in accordance with the Land Traffic Law.

Under Article 79 of the law, owners of imported motorcycles must pay a one-off registration fee of US$250. Driving a vehicle without a licence plate incurs a fine of between 25,000 riels and 200,000 riels ($6 to $48).

Since the crackdown began, tens of thousands of motorcycles have been impounded, many temporarily, by customs officials, prompting motorcyclists from across the country to stage a series of demonstrations calling for the tax and fines to be cut.

On Thursday, following a protest in Poipet, Pho Phala, head of Banteay Meanchey's Customs Department, said fines would be put on hold and the tax rate slashed, although he didn't specify how great the reduction would be or when it would come into force.

"The General Department of Customs and Excise will release a new statement that orders all customs departments around the country to reduce the vehicle tax," he said.

Thun Sophea, a motorcyclist who took part in the Poipet protest, told the Post: "I'm so happy the authorities have agreed to settle this problem.

This shows they understand how hard it is for us to pay these fees."

Fellow protester Chhayden, 25, echoed his sentiments, saying, "This proves that the authorities pay attention to us.... They really do care about the people of Cambodia."

Before the customs announcement, motorcyclists had complained that police frequently demanded money for the retrieval of confiscated vehicles.

"We're not trying to get away from the police," said Tan Van Lorn, 34, who took part in the Poipet demonstration.

"We want to be able to respect the law, but we cannot afford to pay taxes this high."

He called on the authorities to reduce the tax on older motorcycles to between $30 and $50 and suggested the registration fee for new motorcycles should be no higher than $150. The current tax levels were too high for poor people who rely on their motorcycles to earn a living, he said.

In an interview with the Post's Khmer-language edition earlier this month, Sam Rainsy Party spokesman Yim Sovann said the protests were a clear indicator of the poverty and poor living standards being endured by many Cambodians.

"[The movement] is showing us that people are facing more hardship in their lives," he said. "To ensure social stability, security and public order, the government should re-examine its policies that relate to what the people are demanding."

Police Blotter: 28 Aug 2009

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Lim Phalla

Police said two men in Pursat have confessed to the Sunday killing of Nai Kimseng, 49, who was beaten unconscious, thrown into a road and run over by a car. The suspects said they attacked the man because he had been "very skilful in stealing villagers' possessions, including three of their oxen". The two suspects were identified as Saing Mean, 26, and Has Hong, 27, both of whom are from Pursat's Krakor district.

A Siem Reap man who stole a bag containing panties, a bra and 2,000 riels (US$0.48) was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison. Leng Sany, 27, stole the bag from a woman while she was riding a bicycle alone in Siem Reap town in February.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court last week sentenced a man to eight months in prison for destroying his own possessions back in February. The man, identified as Heng Samoeun, 27, went on his "self-destructive" rampage after his mother, Hun Sameith, refused to give him US$200 to buy a motorbike. He had been held in pretrial detention since February 27.

An Italian man was found dead Tuesday in his rented apartment in Sihanoukville's Mittapheap district. His landlord, who first found the naked corpse, identified the man as Ivano Sartoris, 65, and said he had just signed a lease on the apartment five days before he was found dead. Police could say only that Sartoris died of "sickness".

Two men were arrested Tuesday after a drunken brawl in which they are accused of hurling stones at two other men before punching them and beating them with wooden sticks. Police said they had yet to figure out why Song Pros Neang, 20, and Sim Vuthy, 19, attacked Seng Khuoch, 20, and Sim Sam Nang, 28.

A 39-year-old man was slightly injured while being robbed of 12 million riels (US$2,894) by a band of four robbers wielding guns Monday night in Battambang province's Mong Russei district. The victim, identified as Kheng Khorn, had been accused of stealing seven buffaloes the previous day. The four robbers approached Kheng Khorn in Chrey commune and fired four shots, one of which grazed him, before making off with the money.

Detained prostitutes to receive new skills

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Khoun Leakhana

NEARLY two dozen sex workers have been rounded up by Phnom Penh's Department of Social Affairs and sent to NGOs to learn new skills, officials said Thursday, as an anti-prostitution sweep continues in the capital.

Social affairs official Ban Vutha said that 22 women had been sent to the NGOs Friends International and the Women's Network Organisation.

"We sent them there because we believe they will be able to learn many new skills," he said. "Our department cannot keep them here because we are not able to support them, train them or create jobs for them yet."

The drive to get prostitutes off the streets and into alternative employment was launched on Monday, said Saing Sopheakvichet, deputy governor of Tuol Kork district, adding that the campaign was launched to restore "order in the city".

"Most of the women who get arrested are the same women over and over again, which means our efforts in educating them have been ineffective," he said. "Many of these women take up this job voluntarily because they can earn a lot of money easily."

Returnee holding centres to open

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Vong Sokheng

THE Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation has announced a plan to open two temporary holding centres for Cambodians deported from Thailand and Vietnam.

In remarks at the ministry Wednesday, Ith Sam Heng said the government would set up centres in Poipet and Svay Rieng.

"We are conducting the appropriate studies before selecting locations for the temporary centres, which will give an opportunity to people kicked out of Thailand and Vietnam to have somewhere to stay before contacting their families," he said.


Ith Sam Heng could not be reached Thursday to elaborate on plans for the centres, and several secretaries of state at the ministry declined to comment.

Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said he approved of the idea of the centres but said they should be operated in a transparent manner to ensure that people who are held there are not subject to rights abuses.

But Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association, said he did not believe government money should be spent on the centres, arguing that there were not enough Cambodians deported each year to justify the expense.

Ith Sam Heng said in his remarks Wednesday that roughly 1,000 people could benefit from the holding centres each year.

Rong Chhun also called on the government to create more jobs in Cambodia so people would not feel compelled to move out of the country.

Bodies of two loggers found after Thai raids

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Thet Sambath and James O'toole

Thai border troops said to have fired on groups.

THE bodies of two Cambodian men were discovered this week near the Thai-Cambodian border by residents of Oddar Meanchey province's Trapaing Prasat district after villagers and officials said the Thai military opened fire last week on a group of Cambodian men illegally logging in Thai territory.

Keo Tann, the Trapaing Prasat district police chief, said Thursday that the body of 35-year-old Chum Pov of Oddar Meanchey was found Tuesday around the uncertain border between his home province and Thailand's Sisaket province. On Thursday, the body of Monh Pheak, age unknown, of Kampong Chhnang province, was discovered around the same area, he said.

Both bodies were cremated at the scene, he added.

Villagers from Traipang Prasat found the two while searching for signs of men who they said had been missing since a pair of incidents last week left 11 men detained in a Thai prison and an uncertain number still unaccounted for.

Keo Tann said he believed the men were killed August 20, in an incident after which an unknown number of men remain missing.

The thai military should find the perpetrator and put him in jaiL.

This came just three days after another incident in the same area in which 11 men were arrested by Thai troops and one man was injured.

"We are investigating to determine the exact number of missing men. It is difficult to figure out who is missing because many loggers are new-comers to Oddar Meanchey province and they don't report their presence here to local authorities," Keo Tann said.

Leu Chandara, the deputy chief of the Thailand-Cambodia relations office at the Chom border gate, said that soldiers from the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces were planning to search for the missing Cambodians after receiving permission from their Thai counterparts.

He said that the Thai military claimed its soldiers had only fired on the loggers in self-defence, as the loggers were armed themselves.

Vann Kosal, governor of Trapaing Prasat district, said that he does not believe this explanation.

"It's just an excuse by the Thai side. They want to twist the story around," he said.

He blamed both the Thai military and the businessmen who sent the loggers into Thai territory for putting their lives in danger.

Chan Soveth, a senior monitor for the rights group Adhoc, urged the soldiers involved to take responsibility for the men's deaths.

"The Thai military should find the perpetrator and put him in jail. This is a human rights violation," he said, adding that poor Cambodians who do not understand the regulations governing border crossings are at special risk of exploitation by logging contractors.

Officials from the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh were unavailable for comment Thursday. A spokesman from the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs said he needed to gather information about the case and did not comment.

Officials visit electric crematorium

Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A local policeman stands in front of the new electric crematorium installed at Wat Russey Sanh on Thursday.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Chhay Channyda

PHNOM Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said Thursday that construction of a new electric crematorium in Dangkor district, part of an effort to shift cremations out of the city centre, was 80 percent complete.

Following a visit to the site with officials from the Ministry of Cults and Religions, Kep Chuktema said the crematorium itself was finished, but that "infrastructure" - including a garden, a water system, restrooms and fences - was not.

The visit Thursday came less than two weeks after municipal authorities began demolition of the dilapidated crematorium at Wat Lanka, in the capital's Chamkarmon district. Officials have also recently ordered the demolition of the crematorium at Wat Ounalom in Daun Penh district.

Kep Chuktema said the decision to shift cremations towards the outskirts of the capital would "protect the environment as well as the health of the people in the city".

Ma Theary, the chief monk at Wat Russey Sanh, where the new crematorium is located, said he did not know when the site would be ready. He seconded Kep Chuktema's opinion that the new crematorium would have less of an impact on the environment, adding that the site also had plenty of parking.

Govt warns Beeline on below-market pricing

Beeline employees take part in a promotional campaign in Phnom Penh in this file photo. The government has warned the company to increase its tariffs to US$0.06 a minute.

I request [Kith Meng] to open sufficient Trunk Network so as to allow high efficiency of traffic.

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Steve Finch

Newest entrant to Cambodia’s increasingly crowded mobile phone sector told to raise tariffs after dispute with Mobitel

THE government has warned Beeline, Cambodia's newest mobile phone service, to increase its tariffs following a dispute with market leader Mobitel, according to a letter from the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications obtained by the Post.

Dated August 17, the letter says that Beeline - in a meeting with Royal Group CEO Kith Meng - agreed to raise tariffs from US$0.05 a minute to $0.06. Royal Group is due to become the majority shareholder in Mobitel following an agreement this month to buy out Millicom International's stake.

Mobitel was considering shutting down Beeline's access to its infrastructure, the letter said, on the basis that Beeline was selling its mobile services below cost price.

"I would ... like to request [Kith Meng] to open sufficient Trunk Network so as to allow high efficiency of ... traffic between Mobitel and Beeline for the benefit of the customers of both networks," said the letter, signed by Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun.

Beeline - which is run by Russia's Vimpelcom Group - has been given until Tuesday to up its tariffs, according to an industry official who did not want to be named. The company was unavailable for comment Thursday.

"There is no comment, and there are no issues [with Beeline]," Kith Meng said Thursday. It remained unclear whether Mobitel still intended to block its competitor.

The letter was sent to Beeline, Mobitel and the Kingdom's seven other mobile operators in an apparent warning to the sector over increasing competition that has seen companies offer services for free or below-cost price. It is the first time the government has directly intervened in the sector's pricing policies.

On Thursday, in announcing its second-quarter results, Hello owner Axiata of Malaysia bemoaned the distribution of free SIM cards as the reason behind a 17.4 percent drop in revenues. Millicom International has also previously complained about the competitiveness of the Cambodian mobile market, which was the main reason it cited in deciding to sell its stake in Mobitel to Royal Group.

In launching operations in May, Beeline Executive Vice President Vladimir Riabokon said the company would pursue an aggressive investment strategy in a bid to gain half a million users by December.

The company registered 100,000 users in its first fortnight of operations, Riabokon said in May, adding that Beeline was aiming for 20 percent market share within the next three years, which - if achieved - would place it second in the market behind Mobitel.

At the time, Touch Heng, an undersecretary of state at MPTC, welcomed Beeline's low prices.

"The rate [$0.05 for a local call] offered by Beeline is a very good price for users because Cambodians want low prices and a high-quality service," he said.

Campaign to boost market for apartments

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Soeun Say

THE government kicked off a publicity campaign Thursday to promote a newly passed measure allowing co-ownership of buildings in the hope of boosting the depressed property market.

Minister of Land Management, Urban Planning and Construction Im Chhun Lim said promotion of the sub-decree, which was approved earlier this month, would give confidence to developers and investors currently constructing apartment buildings.

The measure will be promoted through advertisements, he said.

The Sub-Decree on Co-ownership allows Cambodians for the first time to own apartments. Previously they could only rent or lease them. It also paves the way for a forthcoming law allowing foreign nationals to buy space on or above the first floor of a building.

Speed urged
National Valuers Association of Cambodia President Sung Bonna urged the government to push through the law on foreign-owned apartments. "Developers have been waiting for this law for many years," he said.

Im Chhun Lim said the law had already been drafted. "We have already agreed with the Ministry of Justice, so the law will be here soon," he said.

Chhean Dara, project manager of the US$30 million Young's Commercial Centre and Resort on Chroy Changvar peninsula, said he hoped the sub-decree on co-ownership would boost apartment sales.

The sub-decree, which does not allow the purchaser to own the land on which the development is constructed, also covers the sale, exchange, donation and inheritance of apartments. Post

Billiton shelves bauxite mine

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Ith Sothoeuth and Nathan Green

BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi Corp have pulled out of a bauxite-mining concession in Mondulkiri province following exploratory drilling and have cancelled plans to build an aluminium refinery in the region, officials said this week.

The companies have informed the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Energy that they will not use their exclusive right to mine the area under the terms of a 2006 mineral-exploration agreement signed with the Cambodian government, a source inside the ministry said.

"They have filed the document officially, but it's not done yet because it needs to be sent to the Council of Ministers," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he was unaware of the issue.

Poor returns
The source said a feasibility study, which cost US$10 million and covered 400 hectares of the company's 996-hectare concession, failed to find bauxite in sufficient quantities to make extraction profitable and justify the construction of the aluminium refinery.

Bauxite ore is the unrefined component of aluminium.

A spokesman for BHP Billiton said by email from Australia late Thursday: "We completed our exploration field work in the Mondulkiri province and are in the process of sharing our evaluation with the Royal Government of Cambodia. As such, we have reduced our presence in Phnom Penh."

However, the spokesman refused to give further details, saying only that "we do not comment publicly about the results of our exploration activities".

BHP Billiton was no longer in its Norodom Boulevard offices Thursday when the Post visited, and its project and risk manager, Dave McCracken, could not be reached on his mobile phone.

The general manager of Mitsubishi Corp's Phnom Penh representative office, Morihiko Kondo, refused to comment when approached by the Post on Thursday, saying only that inquiries should be directed to the joint-venture partner.

Kong Piseth, the chief of the Department of Industry, Mines and Energy in Mondulkiri province, said the joint venture had wound up its operations.

"The company has withdrawn from the site in Mondulkiri and even asked us to cut off the electricity," he said Thursday.

"I have the licence they asked for to continue the second phase, but I haven't seen them go back to work yet."

His deputy, Um Saran, said the company suspended its activities in February or March this year. "They have explored for nearly three years and drilled more than 1,000 holes," he said.

'Billions of dollars'
Australia's BHP, the world's largest mining company, and Japan's Mitsubishi, one of the world's largest diversified trading and investment companies, signed a mineral-exploration agreement with the government in September 2006, according to documents on BHP's Web site.

Exploration operations began in May 2007 and were due to conclude this year. No projections were made as to the likely quantity of bauxite reserves in the province, but Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told an investment conference in November 2007 that bauxite in Mondulkiri could result in an investment worth "billions of US dollars".

No estimate was ever publicised concerning the potential value to the province of the proposed aluminium refinery.

Cambodia's mining sector has long been wracked by controversy, with international NGO Global Witness slamming a "total lack" of transparency in the sector in a 70-page report released in February this year.

In Country for Sale, the London-based NGO said the government had granted more than 100 mining concessions - including 21 in 2008 - to companies controlled by "elite regime figures", with little environmental oversight.

It also singled out a 2007 comment by Lim Kean Hor, minister of water resources and meteorology, where he described a $2.5 million BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi social development fund as "tea money".

Hello revenues slide 17.4pc

A man rides a scooter past a Hello mobile phone subscription office last month in Phnom Penh. BLOOMBERG

The Phnom Penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Steve Finch

Kuala Lumpur-based Axiata, the parent company of Hello, blames highly competitive Cambodia mobile market for drop in second-quarter income

HELLO'S revenues fell 17.4 percent in the second quarter on increased competition in the sector, the mobile-phone operator's majority stakeholder, Axiata, announced in a statement Thursday.

While the Kuala Lumpur-based company recorded a 44 percent rise in net profit overall to 526.8 million ringgit (US$149 million) in the quarter up to the end of June, its Cambodia operations suffered from a "challenging" business environment, the statement said.

"Major operators are facing intense competition on pricing, and new operators are offering free SIM cards and free minutes to capture market share," it stated.

Telekom Malaysia International (Cambodia), which operates under the brand name Hello, is among the top three operators in the Kingdom in a market that has increased to nine companies this year.

Hello's Cambodia CEO, Simon Perkins, said the operator had reduced tariffs to compete with the rest of the sector, citing a difficult start to 2009.

"[Reduced rates] had an effect on our revenue for Q2," Perkins said, declining to break down the company's revenues for the period.

Thursday's statement by Axiata did not disclose financial data for the Kingdom.

Millicom International SA, the majority shareholder in market leader Mobitel, which recently announced that it planned to sell its stake to local partner Royal Group, has also cited an overly competitive market for downward pressure on its revenues for this year, although the Royal Group has denied any impact on its own finances.

In a bid to compete with promotions including free SIMs, Perkins said Hello had offered customers refill bonuses. He added that further tariff changes would be announced next week "which will benefit ... existing customers and further reward them for loyalty, and appeal to new customers".

Hello controls approximately 15 percent of the Cambodian market, according to private-sector data.

Perkins said the company was already seeing "a good improvement in revenue in Q3" on the back of launching BlackBerry push email services earlier this year, which has been followed by the introduction of the 3G BlackBerry Bold handset that went on sale Thursday.

"We have had to increase our stock of handsets to keep up with the demand," he said.

Regionally, Axiata announced it had reached nearly 100 million users in markets that include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, representing growth of close to 100 percent since the second quarter of last year.

Axiata's shares rose 0.7 percent on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange Thursday.

Planned fish hatchery to supply local farms

The Phnom penh Post
Friday, 28 August 2009
Chun Sophal

THE development of a saltwater fish reproduction centre in Preah Sihanouk province is scheduled to begin next year, financed by nearly US$10 million from Japan, a government official said Thursday.

Sam Nov, deputy director of the Department of Fisheries under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, said the centre will be able to produce between 20 million and 30 million young fish per year to supply fish farmers.

"We expect that when the centre starts producing young fish that we will be able to double production to meet demand from local markets, and also increase exports," he said.

The $9.93 million centre is scheduled to be opened in 2011, he said.

Cambodia currently has around 40 saltwater fish-raising communities producing 40,000 tonnes of fish and shrimp per year, according to ministry figures. However, they rely on imported species of fish, especially sea bass and grouper, which are particularly susceptible to disease, Sam Nov said.

Ung Puth Molika, manager of Angkor Shrimp Farming Company in Preah Sihanouk province's Veal Rinh district, said importing fish to raise was expensive and time-consuming.

The company imports sea bass and grouper from Thailand and Vietnam for between $0.10 and $0.20 a head. Anywhere from six to nine months later, the mature fish are sold for between $3.50 and $10 per kilogram, she said.

"It is good that a breeding centre for young sea fish is being built in Cambodia because it will save me time and increase my profits," she said.

She said it would encourage her to expand the farm to produce more than 10 tonnes a year.

Figures from the Agriculture Ministry showed ocean fisheries in Cambodia produced 66,000 tonnes of fish. Export figures were not available for saltwater fish alone, but Cambodia exported 12,000 tonnes of saltwater and freshwater fishery products in 2008.